CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Coast Guard seized two Mexican fishing boats, also known as a lanchas, in the waters off South Texas, each with three Mexican nationals aboard Friday afternoon.
At 11:00 a.m., an Air Station Corpus Christi aircrew on an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter spotted a lancha approximately 6 miles north of the U.S./Mexico maritime border and 26 miles offshore, setting 500 yards of illegal long line fishing gear. The helicopter aircrew pursued the lancha south of maritime border while an HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircrew vectored in a Station South Padre Island boatcrew on a 33-foot law enforcement boat to assist with the interdiction.
One of the three men aboard admitted to having been brought in for illegally fishing in U.S. territorial waters more than 15 times.
Then, at approximately 5:00 p.m., Coast Guard watch standers received notification that a lancha was possibly disabled and located approximately 43 miles north of the U.S./Mexico maritime border and 34 miles off the coast of South Padre Island. Sector Corpus Christi watchstanders immediately launched another MH-65 Dolphin helicopter.
The aircrew located the lancha and dropped the rescue swimmer in order to check the condition of the people aboard. After confirming they were okay, a 33-foot law enforcement boat from Station South Padre Island arrived and interdicted the lancha with the three Mexican nationals and illegal fishing gear aboard.
Since Oct. 1, 2014, there have been 24 lanchas interdicted, 176 lancha detections with evidence of illegal fishing, and 38 miles of illegal long line fishing gear recovered. These latest interdictions are part of an ongoing operation known as Operation Sea Serpent, which increases coordination with the Mexican Navy and other U.S. law enforcement agencies for maritime security patrols and enforcement on both sides of the maritime border.
“Commercial vessels from Mexico continue to conduct illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, venturing further north from the border to seek a larger and more lucrative catch. This activity exploits fish species most sought after by legitimate U.S. commercial and recreational fisherman alike,” said Cmdr. Daniel Deptula, the response officer at Sector Corpus Christi.
If you witness suspicious or illegal fishing in state waters (out to 9 miles offshore), please contact Texas Parks and Wildlife “Operation Game Thief” at 1-800-792-GAME (4263). For all suspicious or illegal fishing occurring in federal waters (out to 200 miles offshore), please contact the U.S. Coast Guard at 361-939-6393.